New research from Fields in Trust showing the crucial role that parks and green spaces play in all our lives has prompted the Association of Play Industries (API) to highlight once again the alarming decline in playgrounds uncovered in its ‘Nowhere to Play’ campaign.
API Chair, Mark Hardy, says: “The Fields in Trust research shows, for the first time at a national level, a direct and statistically significant link between public parks and green spaces and health and wellbeing.
“We are at a pivotal point in the ongoing campaign to protect the future of our playgrounds, parks and green spaces. There is a clear picture emerging demonstrating the positive impact that parks have on health, wellbeing and community integration. “We need to act now to reverse the decline in parks and green spaces due to budget cuts and use this and other research data to inform public policy.”
Wellbeing and life satisfaction
The Fields in Trust findings, which will be published in full soon, establishes a link between an individual’s use of parks and green spaces and an improvement in their life satisfaction, sense of worth, happiness and anxiety levels.
The research comes amid news of the newly-established Parks Action Group, a Government-created advisory body which will explore options to ensure that communities can benefit from parks and green spaces for generations to come.
“We welcome the formation of the Parks Action Group,” says Mark. “Given the increasingly overwhelming evidence of the health benefits of parks and the negative impact their decline will have, it’s now imperative that Government looks into the future of our green spaces.”
Closures across the nation
The API’s Nowhere to Play report uncovered an alarming decline in playground provision. Between 2014/15 and 2015/16, local authorities across England closed 214 children’s playgrounds with plans to close a further 234.
And, the recent Heritage Lottery Fund report highlighted cuts to budgets for the running of parks, with 92% of park managers reporting cuts to their budgets over the past three years.
“The downward trend in park and playground provision is happening fast and let’s not forget that once a park has gone; it’s probably gone forever,” adds Mark. “To take away opportunities for children to play outside and be active – at the same time as we are trying to tackle childhood obesity – is counterproductive and it is children in deprived areas who are hit the hardest.
“The Parks Action Group represents a welcome joined-up approach to safeguarding these spaces and is urgently needed. We now need a clear show of support for playgrounds and the benefits they bring to young people. We are repeating our call for a £100m investment to replace lost playgrounds and help reinstate children’s access to free play and activity.”
A Freedom of Information Act request to all councils, carried out by the Association of Play Industries, revealed the following number of playground closures:
• 2014/15: 112
• 2015/16: 102
The request also asked for future plans to close playgrounds and revealed the following number of playgrounds earmarked for closure:
• 2016/17: 80
• 2017/18: 103
• 2018/19: 51
The Association of Play Industries (API) is the lead trade body within the play sector and campaigns at the highest levels for policy recognition for play. Its members are leading manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of both outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing. Founded in 1984, the API currently has 66 members.